SFMTA Delays Fell and Oak Bikeways to Spring 2013 to Create More Parking

Bike commuters will continue to face dangerous conditions on Fell Street for at least another year. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Separated bikeways on Fell and Oak Streets won’t come until spring 2013 at the earliest, nearly a year later than originally proposed, the SFMTA told Streetsblog today.

SFMTA planner Dustin White said the delay largely comes from opposition from some car owners to the removal of curbside parking, which is leading staff to create more parking spaces on nearby streets as it plans the bikeways.

“We have started to receive feedback opposing the parking removal, and I anticipate that developing parking mitigations will be one of the most difficult aspects of building community support for the project,” said White. Before presenting a proposed design this spring, staff will be “working on refining intersection design options and seeking mitigations to the proposed parking loss” and fielding input from bicycle, pedestrian, and disability advisory committees, he said.

Although SFMTA Sustainable Streets Division Planner Mike Sallaberry said last June that the project could be fast-tracked as a trial and be on the ground as early as this June, White claimed the project was actually ahead of an original target of fall 2013 officially set in a funding grant document approved by the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) [PDF]. “We don’t think the environmental review process will take as long” as originally envisioned in the SFCTA document, he said.

On top of environmental review, staff must complete detailed design, legislation, and acquire funding for construction before implementation, said White.

The bikeways, which would vastly improve a vital bicycling link on three blocks between the Wiggle route and the Panhandle, would replace up to 80 parking spaces depending on which design alternative is chosen. However, about 120 paid parking spaces were opened to the public last year at the adjacent lot at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the city has a nearly forty-year-old Transit First Policy which generally says safe bicycle access should take precedence over car storage.

Mayor Ed Lee ##http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/02/23/streetscast-an-interview-with-san-francisco-mayor-ed-lee/##told Streetsblog##'s Bryan Goebel last February, "I want to get to that experiment on Fell Street quickly." San Franciscans will have waited at least two years since that statement for the city to make good on it. Photo: Christine Falvey

While Mayor Ed Lee‘s administration continues to let complaints from car owners impede safety improvements to city streets, San Francisco is falling farther behind cities like New York and Chicago when it comes to 21st Century bike infrastructure. New York has implemented about twenty miles of on-street protected bikeways in recent years; in no instance has the city delayed a project to make up for the loss of on-street parking. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel installed the Kinzie Street protected bikeway just days after entering office and plans to add 100 miles of protected bike lanes within four years.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is urging supporters to call on Lee and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin to take a stand behind the long-overdue project and implement it with haste in pursuit of the city’s official goal of reaching 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020.

“A safe separated bikeway on this key biking corridor can’t wait,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “We are urging the city to move this project forward more quickly, and ensure the safety of the thousands of San Franciscans who use this crosstown route daily.”

  • TL

    Shmoozilla2000, you don’t have a right to park for free in your neighborhood, nor does anyone else. In fact, you don’t even have the right to live for free in your neighborhood — housing comes with a cost, doesn’t it! There’s no reason the city should subsidize the storage of cars more than it does the housing of people.

  • How are we going to get to our 20/20 goal if we can’t even do this? I’m extremely disappointed and frustrated with Mayor Ed Lee, who is so far all talk on bicycle issues.  Get this project on the ground NOW and tweak it as needed. The SFMTA wants to do this, but it’s being held back by the Mayor’s Office. Please write to the mayor! And perhaps we all need to show up at the SFMTA Board meeting February 7th and express our outrage, and urge them to move forward ASAP.

  • No – that sounds crazy, period.

  • To: John.Avalos@sfgov.org
    Supervisor Avalos –
    My name is John Murphy, you may recall me from a bike ride we took down Cesar Chavez street during your Mayoral Campaign. That day I made a point that this street was supposed to have already been striped with a new bike lane, but that the office of Interim Mayor Edwin Lee delayed this very important project on a important bike route which is nonetheless not very comfortable for cyclists to utilize. Today, the Interim has been dropped from Ed Lee’s title, but his disregard for the safety of cyclists has not.
    The major missing link of the Bay to the Ocean bike way, the notorious blocks of Fell and Oak street from the Wiggle to the panhandle, was scheduled for an improvement including a separated bikeway by early 2012. That section is currently used by thousands of cyclists on a daily basis despite the requirement for nerves of steel. Thousands more refrain from riding between the East and West halves of the City solely because of this short 3 block section.
    That improvement was suddenly delayed to 2013, with the notice from the SFMTA that this is at the behest of people who are concerned about the loss of parking. This project has been in the works for years, yet just as final planning is going into place, the parking issue is suddenly a showstopper. No matter that the SFMTA made the statement, we all know that the buck stops in room 200.
    As one of the best ambassadors of cycling on the SF Board of Supervisors, I would like to ask you to utilize your slot in the next question time with Mayor Ed Lee be that you ask him to dovetail his pronouncements at the 2011 Bike to Work day that he wanted to see a route from the Bay to the Beach by the end of the year with the delays eminating from his office. Clearly he will give an evasive answer but I think it is important for him to put his waffling on the public record.
    Thank You
    John Murphy – San Francisco

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t apply here. There is no right to housing, education or health in the United States Constitution.

  • gilla

    I live a block away.  It’s not residential parking.  Just too many people live here who own multiple cars and want free subsidized parking.

  • gilla

    Some of us ride bikes, have professional jobs, own property and are over 40.  I pay taxes that subsidize your FREE street parking and you complain when bicyclist want a small bit of street in order to be safe!  Car drivers feel so entitled to their polluting lifestyle.

  • Anonymous

    Heeeeeeck no. If you’re going to move the DMV, leaving the site as a parking lot would be a travesty. It would make a great location for a public building (as a sort of exclamation point to the panhandle), or just extend the Panhandle another block. But do something!

  • Anonymous

    Several people have pointed to Belgium and Holland as examples for San Francisco’s bicycle policy to follow. What they fail to mention is that those countries are flat.

  • Anonymous

    @pchazzz:disqus If the hills in SF were really that much of an issue, then cycling would not be as popular as it already is in the city. The reality that most interested parties have figured out is that while the hills can sometimes be obstacles they are easily dealt with by either adjusting one’s route, or by using a bike with average gears or an electric assist in the most extreme cases. The very reason the Wiggle and Fell Street are being given this much attention by cyclists is exactly because they are the flattest and most efficient routes across the city, otherwise bikers would just be using side streets and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    There are enough easy excuses to go around already as to why people should just stick with their uncreative, outdated and unsustainable transportation choices. Let’s try challenging ourselves and look for solutions instead.

  • There is a reason why parking is so difficult in this area–it is not part of a residential parking permit zone. From Hayes to Page, Webster to Lyon, if you can find an unmetered spot, parking is free. And yet it is one of the densest, most congested areas of the city.  (And this makes sense how?)

    If residential parking permits were required to park more than two hours in this area, a lot of open curb space would magically open up. Why thousands of bicyclists should risk their lives so a small number of people can park entirely for free (when most San Francisco residents cannot) is remarkably unfair. To put it mildly.

  • Anonymous

    I ride the wiggle every day. The improved six feet wide, clearly marked, painted in green bike lane on fell is probably in the top 80% if i had to rate my safety every day for riding to work.  I ride that stretch with my baby on my bars in one of those green sleds, momma gives us a thumbs up.

     What I will not do is ride her down a street that has no bike lane. where you can measure the inches between you and passing cars. I almost get plowed on Scott, Haight, Waller, Steiner, Duboce . . . my god is that a death trap. On to the Mission where 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th. You name it. These are deadly.  Let’s fix broken streets before we focus on this. Why not fix Oak. Why does no discuss that there is a difference between Fell and Oak? Oak is a walk your bike down the sidewalk street.

  • Tia

    I still don’t understand why we can’t come to a compromise that is mutually benefiting to both parties. For example, what if parking were made illegal on the planned route during peak commute hours (providing our beloved cyclist with clear, safe lanes) but during non peak hours, residents and visitors could park as we do now? Also, there are multiple businesses such as gas stations (pictured) a towing company, a grocery store and paint store with parking lots and entrances that cross the bike lane (this is on 2 blocks alone). How does eliminating parking really address bike safety if cars are turning in and out of these entrances? I really want to be sympathetic to this cause but am frustrated that the solution has to be so absolute with no compromise. 

  • Ubringliten

    I am very disappointed!

    I live on Berry St. and the parking there is not free.  The residents there manage very well.  It was free parking for us for the last 3 years and free parking was taken out.  Tell me why is Fell/Oak have a priority over my street?

  • Anonymous

    Belgium is flat? Holland is flat? Please to Google “Tour of Flanders” and “Amstel Gold Race”.

    What you say, people don’t commute up the Koppleberg? People in the Marina, surprisingly, commute to work downtown on North Point, not via Divis.

  • Anonymous

    14th and 17th have bike lanes. 15th has next to no traffic.

    Oak is part of the plan that just got nixed.

  • Since there is no metering or permitting on that stretch it is unlikely that the parking is actually being used by customers. More likely it is being used by residents to stash their vehicle(s) for long periods of time.

    I really have no sympathy for individuals who choose to own a car but expect everyone else to provide them prime real estate in which to park it.

  • Anonymous

    @be1f95c8d898b9a0efc57daf06ea6d90:disqus wrote: “How does eliminating parking really address bike safety if cars are turning in and out of these entrances?”

    The entrances are still the weak link in any bike lane. Though there is obviously still room for conflict between cyclists and cars at entrances even with a buffered bike lane, this proposed bike lane is still a *massive* improvement for the overall safety of cyclists compared to the unacceptably dangerous lane that is there now which causes conflict at entrances *and* at stretches with no intersections. Just because a plan isn’t perfect doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move forward with it; it’s way better than what is there now. If you have ever ridden a bike on this section, you would not even be trying to say otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    @weibel:disqus wrote: ” What I will not do is ride her down a street that has no bike lane.
    where you can measure the inches between you and passing cars.”

    Ahhhh …. the cars on this section of Fell, because the bike lane is so thin and the car traffic so thick and moving fast, do come within inches of cyclists. I’m not sure how you can’t agree that the current bike lane, which was a complete after thought, is not highly dangerous. You certainly are the exception then, as most bicyclists don’t find that stretch safe by any means.

  • Anonymous

    I also sent a letter to both the mayor and the SFMTA via the email addresses given in this link: http://www.connectingthecity.org/2011/act-now-to-help-get-separated-bikeways-on-fell-and-oak-in-2012/

  • Anonymous

    @pchazzz:disqus It also snows regularly in the Netherlands. Don’t you think that more than negates any advantage to being flat? And it also snows way more than that in Minneapolis and Montreal, both of which have even more people than SF using bikes to get around. People can keep trying to make excuses for why bicycles can’t work (and in everybody city, somebody has got an excuse), but city after city that gives bicycles the proper infrastructure and support has shown time and time again that they are a legitimate form of transit which will be used by a large chunk of the population to get around.

    And also, unless the start or end of your journey is actually at the top of a hill, you can pretty much avoid most hills in SF. This is one point that most non-cyclists don’t understand, and it is also exactly why the Wiggle is so important to cyclists (because it’s the only non-hilly way to get across the middle of the city east-west).

    @Kithekan2 It makes no sense to respond to your trolling post since you can get all the responses to your “points” by reading through this website. All your points show a complete lack of understanding of the issues and are simply a knee-jerk reaction to what you feel as a threat to your (car-dependant and hence subsidized) way of life. You must realize that, just because it “worked” in the past (if you call destroying our environment, our health, and the livability of our cities “working”), it doesn’t mean that a car-dependent society is the way to move forward.

  • Guest

    “If you want it, you pay your share.  We pay more than our own, year after year.  Stop behaving like entitled children and assume your responsibility.”
    First of all, you don’t pay your fair share.  Because local streets are paid for by property and sales taxes, something we all bear* regardless of whether we drive, your free parking is actually subsidized by people who don’t drive.  This is also true for people who get around by bikes because they contribute far less to the destruction of the streets and they take up far less space.  

    *Yes renters pay property taxes in the form of increased rents. 

    Second, all this is moot anyway, because who said the streets were for sale?  For thousands of years the streets were public space, available for all to enjoy, and suddenly cars came around and decided to claim the streets and sell them back to us for gas and property taxes.  I didn’t agree to this bargain and neither did most of the people who read this blog.  Yes, streets need tax subsidies for maintenance, but it does not follow from that that they belong exclusively to you.  If that were the case, we would all have our own army, navy, and air force.  

    All this movement is about is re-designing streets in a way that’s fair for all users.  Cars take a ridiculously unfair portion of the pie, and people who drive don’t realize that because they’ve had it their way for so long.  Maybe that’s why they sometimes act like “entitled children.”

  • Anonymous

  • What’s your point?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, don’t get it.

  • Tia

    Hi Sean, I don’t mind paying for parking and I own a car (more like a tic tac) and I live on Fell. (JD, I have also ridden on that stretch of Fell on a bike) I also think that there are solutions that could include compromise on both sides for times, such as those on the below video, where traffic is light both for autos and cyclists. I am not trying to go to war on cyclists BTW and could be convinced that perhaps there is no room for compromise but so far, in my very humble opionion, there could be alternative solutions that serve the needs of the cyclists as well as residents.

  • Anonymous

    I bike to work everyday so I’m a big fan of bigger better bike lanes. I also live on this stretch of Fell. My point is that very few of us commute west in the mornings.  From 8AM to 9AM – prime rush hour – we’ve been averaging around 30 cyclists an hour. That’s one every two minutes. The vast majority of cyclists head west on Mon-Fri between 5PM and 6PM. Any other time of day and on weekends they are few and far between. This should be considered in any proposal.

    I’m all for the plan of removing one lane of traffic on Fell. That plan seems to have been removed from the table and it’s the one plan that would slow down traffic and benefit cyclists as well as keep the neighborhood livable for families and small business. 

    I have not met one single resident, someone who lives within two blocks of the affected six blocks, who is in favor of the current plan. If you know one person who actually lives in this neighborhood who is in favor, then please introduce us. I’d love to hear what they have to say. 

  • What do you object to in the current plan?

  • Is your solution to maintain the status quo of giving out real estate?

  • Tia

    No, I think paid permit parking is one alternative for the hours that are non-peak. Happy to pay for parking – or maybe I am not getting your point. 

  • mikesonn

    Fell heads west, downtown is to the east. AM rush hour goes towards downtown, not GGP. I fail to see how this video has any relevance.

  • but..but…he found  %.0013 of a day in which no bikes used the lane! Surely this means that the current infrastructure is more than adequate?

  • Justin

    Tia, interesting how you talk of “cyclists as well as residents,” as if cyclists don’t live here and all residents are car owners. You also rationalize your car by calling it a tic tac, apparently telling us that because it is smaller than average, it’s ok!, it doesn’t clog our streets, foul our air, or take up 220 square feet of our precious public space for storage. 

    I know this sounds harsh and is not what you meant, but it nicely demonstrates how car owners assume it is their Right to drive anywhere and have a place to park waiting when they get there — even at the expense of the safety of people who do not drive. By suggesting “solutions that serve the need of cyclists as well as residents,” don’t you mean, “a solution that leaves me with convenient parking”?

  • Anonymous

    Sean, I invite you over to my house any morning you like. I’ll put on a pot of tea and we can count cyclists from 8AM-9AM . . . Rush Hour. If more than 30 cyclists pass then I will buy you breakfast. If not then you buy.

    trust me – these videos are all first takes shot at random. It certainly wouldn’t be hard to film five minutes without a cyclist going by.

  • mikesonn

    Again, Fell heads west and downtown is to the east. Videos are moot point.

  • From what I have read here recently there is a bit of “I am okay with the bike lane just not how it would be implemented.” Since we cannot add more space to this planet, the bike lane will come at the expense of some existing space — either parking or a converting a car lane to a bike lane.

    We know the SFMTA rejected the latter, and is delaying the implementation until they can replace the former. The only way I can really interpret comments like yours is that you support the bike lane, but not at the cost of parking.

    While I do appreciate that you are willing in theory to pay for the parking (that is a concession rarely seen), it still, as noted by @72562d2e1fb45be3e000db0b5a81dc59:disqus , reads as though you view street parking as an inalienable right.

  • What do you object to in the current plan? It is alright to tell us — you have the current arrangement for at least a year.

  • Aaron Bialick

    If you want a count of bicycle traffic on Fell, you need look no further than the SFMTA’s bicycle counter data. Looks like 1,510 people use it on an average weekday.

    But why are we concerned with the number of people who are willing to put up with current conditions? Isn’t this about the people who don’t bike because Fell and Oak lack separated bikeways?

    As a west side bike commuter, I consider myself relatively stress-tolerant, but I take McAllister as an alternative most of the time largely because I’m willing to put up with the hill. But once the bikeways go in, I see myself taking the Wiggle more often.Now, just imagine the implications when you take into account how many other people don’t ride at all, but would if they didn’t have to choose between the current conditions on Fell and Oak and climbing up hills like McAllister and Page.Weibel, will you film new videos for us after the bikeways go in?

  • rvench

    I agree that there is a solution that benefits bikers and residents, but the problem is it comes at the expense of west side residents who seem to have the right to drive 40 mph to and from work every morning on Fell and Oak.  By the way, car commuters on the west side don’t seem to have any problems parking since that is the least densely populated part of the city. Pretty good deal for them.

    I live on Fell and am in favor of the bike lane.  But originally there were 5 plans.  3 or 4 of them involved removing a lane of traffic.  Sounded great to residents too.  Insert bike lane, keep local parking, decrease traffic and speed of cars on Fell and Oak streets.  Increase everyone’s quality of life. For rush hour, you can remove parking to help move folks along.  Seems pretty simple, and everyone wins.  But somewhere along the way, all of these options were eliminated.  Everyone here sounds like they are in favor of the bike lane AND in favor of less traffic on Fell and Oak.  So just remove a lane of traffic (or remove it except for rush hours), and insert the bike lane.

    Someone else above pointed out that the part of Fell and Oak next to the panhandle actually encourages more traffic on these streets because it goes from 3 lanes to 4 lanes.  Seems simple enough to remove a traffic lane there as well, add parking and/or extend the bike lane.  Let drivers use Turk street more if we need to help with the traffic pattern.  That’s a 2 lane east west artery, but it seems underused.  If Fell was 2 lanes, most of the time, 3 lanes for rush hour, everyone would get exactly what they are looking for.  

    Evidently, these options were removed because…actually I have no idea why.  I suspect it’s to prevent an uproar from west siders.  But, I think if you live on the west side, you shouldn’t have the right to drive your car 40 mph to and from work every morning and evening, and park your car easily within a block of your residence. Keeping all the traffic lanes means that west siders get to keep driving their cars and keep parking for free.  I would think if your goal was to reduce car use in the city, etc., then trading a lane of traffic for parking would actually be in your interest too.

    But there are many solutions to this that keep the lane, reduce traffic and traffic speed on Fell and Oak, and preserve parking for residents. Problem is that the SFMTA picked the worst plan.  I hope the SFMTA makes a better choice this time. Frankly, local residents have the exact same interests as everyone who wants the bike lane. 

    But any choice that preserves the right of west siders to drive 40-45 mph coming down that hill on Fell (you all know the one, where bikes make that left hand turn from Scott) is just the wrong choice.

  • Anonymous

    This is a city, not a collection of neighborhoods. People who use that street have import just like those who live on it.

  • @azb324:disqus bah, the hills are precisely why I take Fulton back and forth each day.

  • Anonymous

    There’s the rub. The best solution is lane removal. But we’ve been beaten down to not believe that can happen so we fight for a half ass scrap compromise. But I won’t give up those scraps just because someone says it isn’t the best solution because the most likely result is we get nothing.

    Get the rest of your neighbors to demand a lane removal. I’ll sign the petition. But in the meantime I’ll fight like hell for the sub-optimal massive improvement to the status quo.

  • shaun

    I do have to say that Oak and Fell streets are basically on and off ramps to the 101. What are the implications of going to 2 lanes along this wiggle route? This neighborhood has been revitalized from businesses taking a chance and hence we have a vibrant area where people want to come. I have lived in this neighborhood for 15 years and have seen the changes firsthand. From experience you would never have ridden your bike through here anyway. I live in this neighborhood and am pro cyclists (except the ones that abuse me when I am taking a walk in the Panhandle from my house and tell me to fuck off to the other side where the walkers should be. WALK SF go get ’em… I will say a minority but it does not come off well) but not anti cars because I do have both. I have no problem with paying for parking and maybe a good start is for residential parking permits and other resolutions to alleviate the loss of 70 to 80 parking spaces in our neighborhood. If the bike lanes went through as planned without many of the residents knowing, as they had not, it would have had an immediate negative impact. The fact that has come to my attention is that the many residents had no idea what was going on and they need to know. Democracy at it’s best.

  • Anonymous

    The only plans that involved reducing either one to 2 lanes maintained 3 lanes at rush hours, and only went to 2 lanes at night. Even those plans have seemingly been shelved.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a westsider and I support your message.

    The latest plan does say “overnight lane removal may be feasible,” so that’s something.

  • Michael

    As a neighbor, cyclist, and car owner, I have to say I’m happy this is being delayed. It’s already a nightmare parking in the area, and as a younger person, the $300 / month often charged to rent a garage spot in the area is completely outside of my budget. I bike to work along that route probably 4 out of 5 days a week, and I use Page and Hayes, which are much safer. Why is that not an option? Let Fell and Oak be what they are: major thorooughfares through the city and to the 101. 

    Cyclists need to be smart in choosing routes – there’s a reason you’re not allowed to ride on interstates.

  • mikesonn

    But $300/mo is pretty close to market rate for the space your vehicle takes up. Best leave it on the public ROW for under $10/mo (but this area doesn’t even have residential parking permits, so leave it there for free).

  • Do you want it delayed, or cancelled. If the answer is delayed, you should be as mad as everyone else that after several years of planning we are going back to the drawing board.

  • ubringliten

    So you’re choosing free parking over the safety of bicyclists.  If the cyclists are to take Hayes/Page, they are being inconvenienced.  Why don’t you find parking in other areas?  As a cyclist, it is already hard to bike everywhere and you want them to take different routes so you can have parking near your place?

    Thoroughfares for cars but not for cyclists?

  • I know it is difficult to not sound judgmental when asking this because our culture is car-centric, but why is it society’s problem that you cannot afford to live in the area unless your parking is subsidized? 

    We own a car, and rented an apartment with parking. That meant not getting some other amenities we might have wanted, but we worked within our budget and constraints rather than expecting a handout.


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Fourteen years of community-driven efforts to improve conditions on Fell and Oak Streets around the Panhandle are finally paying off. The outreach continues on a vision for separated bikeways that would provide San Franciscans safe access to the flattest route connecting the western neighborhoods to areas east while making the neighborhood more livable for residents and businesses. […]